Upon fertilisation, a single cell is formed when egg and sperm fuse. Our entire body, with more than 200 specialised cell types and billions of cells are formed from this single cell. It is a scientific mystery how the early stem cells know what cell type to become, but a precise timing of the process is crucial for correct development and function of our body. Researchers across the world chase knowledge about our stem cells, as this knowledge holds great promises for development of treatment against several major diseases. Researchers from BRIC, University of Copenhagen, have just shown that the molecule REST acts as an adapter in stem cells, coupling molecular on-off switches with neural genes and thereby times neuronal development.
"REST secure neuronal genes to be turned off in our stem cells until the correct time point in fetal life, where the molecule is lost and development of the nervous system begins. Our results are very important for the understanding of how genes are turned on and off during fetal development, but also relates to disease development such as cancer. Hopefully, our future studies of REST will contribute to the development of new types of treatments," says Associate Professor and Group Leader at BRIC, Klaus Hansen.
All our cells contain the same DNA, yet they can develop into specialised cells with different shapes and functions. This ability is due to only selective genes being turned on in for example neuronal cells and other genes in liver cells and skin cells. Postdoc Nikolaj Dietrich from Klaus Hansen's laboratory has been the main driver of the investigation:
"Our results show that REST act as an adapter for the protein complexes called PRCs, connecting these complexes to neuronal genes. The PRCs are genetic switches turning off genes and therefore REST and the PRCs act in concert to shutdown neuronal genes. A similar mechanism has previously been described in frui
|Contact: Klaus Hansen|
University of Copenhagen